The Wisconsin Agricultural Statistics Service reported that there were 28 percent fewer dairy farms in the state last year compared with just five years ago. Wisconsin 4-H dairy youth project participant numbers declined by almost 38 percent over that period. 4-H project leaders have identified managerial or leased animal projects as one way to increase youth involvement in the 4-H dairy project. To encourage managerial dairy projects, Wisconsin 4-H has released an updated Dairy Managerial Project Agreement, which spells out the responsibilities of those involved in the lease and manages the liability issues related to the agreement.
Dairy managerial or lease arrangements allow farm and non-farm youth access to registered dairy animals from cooperator dairy herds.
In 2002, the Wisconsin Junior State Fair will require counties to have their managerial animals identified by June 1 for these cattle to be eligible to exhibit at next year”s fair. The updated form will help counties and individual 4-H members meet this new requirement. Counties wishing to implement a similar program for their local shows may also use the contract to identify managerial animals at the county level.
The dairy managerial project has several objectives. One is to develop character, knowledge and a sense of responsibility in 4-H participants. Another goal is to provide the opportunity to work with registered dairy cattle, for both non-farm youth and youth from farms with non-registered cattle. Furthermore, the program is intended to maintain or increase the number of youth and registered dairy animals in the 4-H dairy project.
According to Ted Halbach, UW-Madison Extension dairy youth specialist, the program provides non-farm youth interested in animals an alternative to domestic animal or non-animal projects. Not only does the managerial project teach youth about the responsibility and care involved in working with dairy animals, but also about the hard work and subtle rewards encountered in dairy farming.
“If Wisconsin is going to stay a leader in the dairy industry we need to maintain the critical mass of our dairy youth program,” says Halbach. “It might be a bit of a cliche, but youth programs are the dairy industry”s investment in tomorrow. Some youth participating in the dairy managerial program may never be closely involved in dairy farming in their future careers, but they will become more aware of the industry and supporters of dairy farming and animal agriculture.”
The updated 4-H Dairy Managerial Project Agreement forms will be available at all Wisconsin county UW-Extension offices after Nov. 1.